Rutgers Fans Have A Lot To Learn If They Want To Be B1G
Rivalries are one of the most important aspects of the sports world. They fuel motivation for athletes. They bring fans out to games. They add an element of friendly animosity to a matchup that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.
But let’s be clear, the emphasis is on the word friendly there. It’s all fun and games, but in the end that’s all it is. You root for one team. I root for another. You don’t like my team, and I don’t like yours. That’s all good and makes for a great game environment, but an issue arises when it starts to become personal. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium, as the Rutgers fans were as hostile as I’ve ever seen at a sporting event.
Before I dive into the specifics, it’s important to note that I’m a veteran of attending road games as a fan. I’ve been to New York Jets games in New England. I’ve been to Brooklyn Nets games in Boston. I’ve been to Penn State games at multiple Big Ten schools. In each of those occurrences, I was by and large treated kindly by the opposing fans. There were a few bad apples, as there are at every sporting event in the country, but for the most part I received warm welcomes.
My Rutgers experience started out well at a tailgate that was almost entirely peacefully sporting scarlet, that is, until the fan in the “Ped State” shirt showed up (yes, that guy was at the tailgate we were at). Other than that, a few dirty looks were the worst of it outside of the stadium. What happened once I got down to the sidelines with my camera to shoot the game in a Penn State sweatshirt is a different story.
For starters, multiple fans took simple booing to a whole new level, instead raining down obscenities like “Go fuck yourself!” and “Fuck Penn State!” I had Sandusky references hurled my way on a couple occasions. While entering the tunnel to edit photos, students leaning on the railing above tried spitting on me more than once. This repeated throughout the entire game.
I’m not sure how audible it was for those watching the game on television, but the Rutgers student section continually started “Fuck Penn State!” chants for all four quarters, which is a pretty bad look when you’re hosting the school’s first ever Big Ten game in primetime on national television. These chants weren’t just a couple hundred vocal students either. It was the entire student section. Penn State fans were shaking their heads in disbelief on the sidelines.
“You would never hear chants like that from our whole student section,” one fan said.
Smaller groups of student section attendees could be heard chanting Ray Rice’s name throughout the night. Rice is a former Rutgers running back who was recently cut from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens following a video of him beating his wife reaching the public.
To the credit of the university, Rutgers sent out an email to its student body prior to the game to remind it to be good sports. It included a list of reminders, and this corny video that proved to be ignored by the majority of students in attendance:
And today, Rutgers released a statement apologizing for the crude behavior of its fans, which you can read in full here.
Like I said, sports needs rivalries. The problem is that most Rutgers fans don’t know how to have one yet. I respect the passion the fans have for their team, and I’m happy for my home state’s school that it set an attendance record and is making progress towards becoming a football power. Having said that, I’ve found that hospitality is one of the quintessential elements of any good rivalry.
Trashtalking is one thing, and both of us engaged in it heavily prior to the game. But don’t give your school and fan base a negative image and don’t make future opponents’ fans question whether or not they want to set foot in your stadium. I can only speak for our conference, but that’s how things are done around here. I’ve been to Big Ten schools expecting a harsh welcome, and have always been pleasantly surprised to find welcoming fans.
Rutgers might be listed as a member of our conference in the football standings, but until the fans starting acting like it, there’s nothing “Big Ten” about it.